Threats to Individuality

Some people object to the very idea of cloning a human being because they believe that the person cloned would not be a unique individual. He or she would be the genetic copy of the person from whom the somatic cell was transferred. He or she would be the equivalent of an identical twin of this person, though years younger. Moreover, since dignity and worth is attached to a person's uniqueness as an individual, cloned individuals would lose something that is the basis of the special value each person should have. Some go so far as to claim that each person has in fact a right to a unique identity. Others point out the difficulties that clones would have in maintaining their individuality. People often have difficulty distinguishing identical twins from one another. Sometimes they dress alike and often they are expected to act alike. The implication is that they do not have the freedom or ability to develop their own individual personalities.

This objection is sometimes expressed as the view that a cloned human being would not have a soul, that he or she would be a hollow shell of a person. This version of the objection is probably based on a religious belief that only God should be allowed to create a human being and in doing so directly acts to place a soul in that person. Thus if through cloning man produces a human being, God is prevented from placing a soul in that person.

Again, criticisms of these objections vary with the interpretation. One response is to review the facts about identical twins. Identical twins are more like each other than a clone would be to the person who was cloned. This is because identical twins shared the same nuclear environment as well as the same uterus. This would not be the case with clones. They would have had different mitochondria. This is important because the mitochondrial genes in the cytoplasm surrounding the re-nucleated cell do play a role in development. Clones would have developed in different uteruses and they would be raised in different circumstances and environments. Studies of plants and animals give dramatic evidence of how great a difference the environment makes. For example, plants and some animals vary significantly in structure and characteristics depending on the altitude of the land in which they develop. The genotype does not fully determine the phenotype. CC, the cloned cat mentioned above, does not quite look like its mother, Rainbow, a calico tri-colored female. They have different coat patterns because genes are not the only factor that controls coat color. At one year CC also has a different personality from her mother, being much more playful and curious. Even in the science fiction stories of creation of groups of clones, for instance of Hitler in the movie, The Boys from Brazil, the creators try to duplicate the environment. While genes do matter, and thus there would be similarities between the clone and the person who was cloned, the two would not be identical. Furthermore, these critics note, even normally-produced children may look like one or both of their parents and this fact does not prevent them from being individuals.

On the matter of soul, critics wonder why could God not give each person, identical twin or clone, an individual soul. Consider when the soul is supposed to be implanted in an individual. Some medieval writers, for example, held that the soul appeared or was implanted in the fetus when it had developed sufficiently so that it was fit for a human soul. Previous to that point, some held, the developing fetus had a vegetable and then an animal soul. Aristotle held that the soul or psyche was simply the form of the being, that which gave it unity as a particular living being, whether it be a plant or animal or person. Like any living human being, a cloned human being would on this view be a distinct being and so would have a human psyche or soul.

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